Revelation 2:1-7 – The Church of Ephesus

by | Updated November 12th, 2020

In Revelation 2-3 we have the Letters to the Seven Churches. These are specific messages the Lord Jesus gives to each of the seven churches of Asia Minor. These were real churches that existed in John’s day near the end of the first century. Each church also depicts a specific period of church history.

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As we have already seen in chapter one, the Greek word for angel is angelos and simply means “messenger.” Most view them as the “messenger” of the local church. A pastor of a church functions as a “messenger” for God, delivering God’s Word to the congregation.

It’s interesting that our Lord takes a different aspect of the description of Himself out of chapter one to each church. He does so applying it to where they were in their relationship with Him and their function in the world. Five of the churches He begins with a word of encouragement proceeded by a rebuke. The church in Philadelphia is given no rebuke but commendation only. To the church of the Laodiceans Jesus gives no praise but rebuke only.

These are messages to each of the seven churches but the messages reach beyond that time and place. These churches were chosen as recipients of the Lord’s letters to make the letters typical of the successive stages through which the church would ultimately pass. Each letter is viewed as a word to these individual churches, they apply as well to all the church throughout the ages, and each church is symbolic of an age in the history of the church.

Revelation 2:1-7 – The Church of Ephesus

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”

  1. The identity of the speaker. “These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks” (Revelation 2:1). This is none other than the Lord Jesus Himself. He takes of the description of Himself in Revelation 1:13 and 16. He’s making it clear He stands in the midst of His church (Matthew 18:20) and that He holds His messengers in His right hand. He has them under His personal care and protection. There’s a sharp twoedged sword proceeding out of His mouth to devour all who come against His faithful messengers.
  2. The City. “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write” (Revelation 2:1a). Ephesus was the capital city of Asia Minor where John resided. The church was established by Paul in Acts 19. Ephesus (Ephesos) means desirable. It’s an endearing term that a young Greek lad would use to refer to his bride to be. When Jesus left His church in the world it was as a chaste virgin, the bride of Christ, espoused to Himself.
  3. Church history. Ephesus was typical of the apostolic church age. It began as a church ablaze for Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. Nearing the end of the first century it had drifted somewhat from its passion and first love. It’s exhorted by our Lord to return to where it was at its inception.
  4. Encouragement to the church. “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted” (Revelation 2:2-3).
    1. Their labor for Christ. They were steadfast in their work and labor for Him. They had endured all that had come against them and had not given up. All they did they did for His name’s sake. They had not fainted regardless of the battles they had endured. What a word for the church today. We must labor, endure hardness, and continue laboring for Christ without becoming fainthearted.

      1 Corinthians 15:58 – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

      Galatians 6:9-10 – “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

      Hebrews 12:1 – “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

      Acts 20:24 – “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

      2 Timothy 2:3 – “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

    2. Their discernment. They exercised great discernment. “How thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Revelation 2:2). As they were nearing the end of the first century there were those arising who were already beginning to propagate false doctrine. The early church was commended by the Lord for not enduring false doctrine nor false teachers who were espousing it.

      Oh how we need this type of discernment in the church today. We don’t need to nit pick everything being taught, however, when it comes to the essentials of the faith it’s incumbent upon us to test the spirits. There’s much teaching going around that is simply not “sound Biblical doctrine.” Much of the church of our day has lost its spirit of discernment.

      2 Corinthians 11:3-4 – “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.”

      2 Corinthians 11:13-15 – “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.”

      Galatians 1:6-9 – “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

      1 John 2:18-20 – “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.”

    3. The Nicolaitans. “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Revelation 2:6). Nicolaitanes (Nikolaites) means conquerors of the people or the clergy over the laity. They thought there should be two classes of people in the church the clergy and the laity. This was a perversion of truth. There is the five-fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11) and the people are to submit those who have spiritual authority over them (Hebrews 13:17).

      However, to put it in proper balance, those called of God into the ministry were not to lord it over them. “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). We’re to follow the example of those in spiritual leadership but not blindly. Leaders are to exhort, challenge, encourage those under their care and be an example of Christ likeness (1 Corinthians 11:1).

      The Catholic church has at times in church history abused their authority over the people as if they were spiritually superior. Among many things, they taught that the common person could not understand the Word of God and therefore needed the priests to interpret it for them. This is far from the truth. Each born-again believer is spiritually enlightened by the Holy Spirit Who guides them into all truth (1 Corinthians 2:12-14, John 16:13-14).

      We must all study God’s Word for ourselves and let the Holy Spirit teach us (1 John 2:20 and 27). That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be taught. The Lord places good Bible teachers in the body of Christ for a reason (Ephesians 4:11 and Romans 12:6-8). However, we must all study the Bible on our own and let the Holy Spirit teach us.

      There was a time in the twentieth century church that there was a movement called the shepherding movement. During this time those of the five-fold ministry lorded themselves over the people they were pastoring. They went to such extremes that their people had to go to them concerning every decision they made. They would then pray and tell them what they should do.

      This type of shepherding is a false and erroneous teaching and must be rejected by the church. Each child of God is to be led by the Holy Spirit themselves (Romans 8:14). This doesn’t mean when we’re facing difficult decisions we shouldn’t go to our pastor for guidance. Part of a Pastor’s job is to give their people direction from the Word of God (Exodus 18:16 and Romans 15:14). The person then makes the best decision they themselves can under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Proverbs 3:5-6 and James 1:5-8).

      The doctrine of the Nicolaitans must be resisted on every front. Balance is imperative!

  5. Christ’ rebuke to Ephesus. “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:4-5).

    They had left their first love. They were doing all the right things, going through all the motions, but without any emotion. Their heart-felt love for Jesus was not were it once was at the beginning. How many in the church today are doing all the right things, teaching correct doctrine, and even exposing false teachers, yet something is missing. Our relationship with Jesus is not what it once was. We’ve left our first love. We must return to the first works. The twenty-first century church must give heed to this admonition as well.

    There’s an interesting story in 2 Kings 6:1-7. There was a school of the prophets over which Elisha presided. The sons of the prophets came to Elisha and said, “Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait (small, constrained, cramped) for us. Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye. And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants. And he answered, I will go. So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood” (2 Kings 6:1-5).

    What would it be like if instead of having to push our people into a building program they came to us insisting on a building? When it happens this way we don’t have to work at motivating them to work, give, and sacrifice. They do so willingly. That’s the way it happened in the Bible. “The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the Lord commanded to make. And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing” (Exodus 36:5-6). The early church didn’t have to beg the people to give, they did so willingly (Acts 4:34-35).

    “But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed” (2 Kings 6:5). He was excited and working hard on this building project. He was chopping and chopping endeavoring to cut down a tree when all the sudden his ax head flew off and fell into the water and he cried out to Elisha that it was borrowed. Have you ever been enthusiastically laboring for God and suddenly it seems as if you weren’t accomplishing anything. You lost your cutting edge! You’re laboring on borrowed power and strength! That’s what it’s like when we’ve left our first love. There’s one who has the remedy.

    “The man of God said, Where fell it? And he showed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim. Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it” (2 Kings 6:6-7). The ax head swam and his cutting edge was restored. If you’ve lost your cutting edge I have good news for you. There was a tree cut for you on Calvary’s hill. We must simply “remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works.”

    When we do our power will be restored. We have to return to the first things. Go back to where you first met Jesus. Return to the cross “or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” The removal of the candlestick out of his place doesn’t mean our salvation is lost but rather our position, power, and authority where Christ is at the center is lost. Like the student who lost his cutting edge.

  6. An attentive ear to the voice of the Holy Spirit. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 2:7a). We must have an attentive ear to the Spirit and constantly listening for Him to speak. “Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7-8).

    God is always speaking we must simply tune into His voice. We must not only have a listening ear but also a heart of obedience to give heed to what the Spirit says to the churches (John 7:17 and Matthew 25:29). Notice, churches is plural. Even though this message is directed to Ephesus, all the churches must listen and heed what the Spirit says. This also applies to each church age.

  7. The promise to overcomers. “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7b). All born-again believer are overcomers. All we must do is continue believing in and trusting in Jesus and His love for us. “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12).

    Romans 8:37 – “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”

    1 John 4:4 – “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

    1 John 5:4-5 – “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”

    We’re promised the tree of life. Man was cut off from the tree of life in the Garden of Eden and in Revelation the tree of life is restored (Genesis 3:22-24 and Revelation 22:2 and 14). Actually, the moment we trust Christ and His finished work on our behalf we begin eating of it spiritually but then it is completely restored.

    Deuteronomy 30:19 – “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”

    John 10:10 – “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

    1 John 5:12 – “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”

Let’s claim the victory and life our Lord wrought for us at Calvary!


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